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Cablegate: Bolivia Hosts Anti-Imperialist Alba Summit

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV KDEM ECON ETRD BL
SUBJECT: BOLIVIA HOSTS ANTI-IMPERIALIST ALBA SUMMIT

1. (SBU) Summary: Bolivian President Evo Morales played host
to the Seventh Summit Meeting of ALBA (the "Bolivarian
Alliance for the People of Our America," in its latest
iteration) October 16-17 in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Leaders
from ALBA's nine member states (Bolivia, Venezuela,
Nicaragua, Cuba, Honduras, Ecuador, St, Vincent and the
Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda and Dominica) gathered in a
festival-like atmosphere to condemn U.S. imperialism and
advance plans for the socialist transformation of Latin
America. ALBA leaders endorsed the establishment of a common
currency (the "sucre") to replace the U.S. dollar in regional
commerce, underscored support for ousted Honduran President
Zelaya, reiterated concerns about the U.S.-Colombian base
agreement, and outlined proposals for new common state
enterprises. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez proposed a
formal military alliance of ALBA states, but Morales appeared
cool to the idea, arguing that it requires further study. End
Summary.

2. (SBU) For two days in the central Bolivian city of
Cochabamba, President Morales reveled in meetings, public
rallies and press availabilities with his leftist
counterparts, particularly Chavez, Ecuadorian President
Correa and Nicaraguan President Ortega. Cuba -- which will
host the next ALBA summit in just two months -- was
represented by Vice President Machado, the Caribbean members
by their prime ministers and Honduras by Zelaya's foreign
minister, Patricia Rodas. Russian National Security Council
Secretary Nikolai Patrushev attended the meetings as an
invited observer.

3. (SBU) Amid the hours of rhetorical attacks on the U.S.
"empire," lofty socialist pronouncements (the creation of a
"new and just world"), and recountings of alleged
assassination attempts against ALBA's visionaries, the summit
participants advanced some concrete agenda items. Seated
around a table with a floral arrangement spelling out the
words, "Coca is not cocaine," ALBA leaders reiterated their
condemnation of Zelaya's ouster and approved the creation of
a new common currency, the sucre, to replace the U.S. dollar
in intra-ALBA commercial transactions beginning in 2010.
ALBA leaders took up Morales's campaign to defend "Mother
Earth," agreeing to approach December's COP-15 UN climate
talks with a common position demanding compensation for
environmental damages caused by leading industrial nations.

4. (SBU) There was apparently less enthusiasm, however, for
Hugo Chavez's suggestion that ALBA establish itself as a
formal military alliance to confront "threats from the empire
(the U.S.)." "Who's to stop us from forming such an
alliance," Chavez argued, when we are confronted by "an
empire that continues to infiltrate our armed forces, using
old contacts and reviving fears of communism." Morales
responded cautiously, maintaining that such a proposal should
be first studied carefully by the militaries of the member
states. ALBA members issued a declaration calling on
Colombia to reconsider its "base" agreement with the U.S.,
and reiterated the usual condemnation of the United States as
a threat to peace and democracy in the region.

5. (SBU) The ALBA leaders endorsed plans to create a host of
new state-run entities ("gran nacionales"), including an
export-import entity, aluminum, steel, and food production
enterprises, a new common media concern (to counter
"pro-U.S." international propaganda), and even a chain of
ALBA hotels. On the margins of the summit, ALBA organized
commercial promotion activities that reportedly included some
177 firms and resulted in 121 million USD in new trade
(primarily in the textile sector).

6. (SBU) Comment: Many of ALBA's grandiose, statist plans
have been greeted with skepticism. An Inter-American
Development Bank official was privately dismissive of the
sucre as a feasible unit of account, given the poor
credibility of ALBA's central banks. The local World Bank
representative said ALBA continues to detract from serious
efforts to promote regional integration, while promoting
extreme economic policies among the indigenous and other
marginalized groups. Still, the summit provided Morales and
his allies with timely opportunity to showcase their
anti-imperialist, anti-U.S. philosophy. Less than two months
before general elections here, the summit was no doubt
welcomed by Morales as a boost to his carefully cultivated
image as a defender of Latin American sovereignty.
CREAMER

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